A few days ago I met a Berlin taxi driver named Zlatan who told me his favorite place to eat is Rogacki, the superdeli/marketplace in Charlottenburg that started out as a smoked fish stand back in 1928. Once a week, Zlatan stops by the cafeteria at Rogacki for fried codfish and potato salad, “But don’t tell my girlfriend,” he said. “She’s a vegetarian. A healthy person. She doesn’t like me eating too much potato salad.”
I seriously doubt Zlatan’s girlfriend reads this blog, which is why I’m writing about him and his relationship to Rogacki anyway. The truth is I’ve been waiting five years for a taxi driver to recommend Rogacki so I would finally have an excuse to write about it here. Now that it’s finally happened, I’m struggling to find the words. How do you describe a place you love as though it were a person?
I love Rogacki for its fish (especially its smoked butterfish), its democratic prices (despite being written up in The New York Times and being featured in just about every guidebook in existence, you can still get a generous piece of battered cod and a heaping mound of potato salad for about 6 Euros), and its atmosphere of abundance (between fish and fowl and soups and salads and pasta and pastries and beer and coffee, the place gives the impression of being able to satisfy any and every hunger).
But I love Rogacki even more for the associations it inspires: The first time I walked in, during the summer of 2010, and caught a whiff of smoked meat and a glimpse of all the sausages and salamis in the pork section, I was back at Eash Deli & Meats, my grandpa’s deli in Long Beach (where he cured his own bacon, smoked his own ham, and made everything from kielbasa and pastrami to liverwurst and beef jerky). Not to mention the fact that Rogacki opened in 1928, the same year my Dad was born, so I always know how old it is (87, going on 88). I also love that it started out as a little smoked fish stand and grew (and grew) into the superdeli it is today. I love that the Rogacki family rebuilt it after it was reduced to ruins during World War II. I love that the business has stayed in the family: Dietmar Rogacki, the grandson of original owners Paul and Lucia Rogacki, still runs the place.
For Zlatan, a slim, sixty-something man with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair who was born in Croatia and came to Hamburg in the 1950s, when his father, a civil engineer, was invited to Germany as a guest worker, Rogacki is one of the reasons he’s happy to be living in Berlin. It’s also a reason to keep driving the taxi, a job he does part-time, when he’s not bookkeeping for taxi companies or selling “miscellany” on the internet. How else would he be able to sneak in all that potato salad?
Wilmersdorfer Str.145 / 46
Phone: (030) 343825-0
Open: Monday-Wednesday, 9am-6pm; Thursday, 9am-7pm; Friday, 8am-7pm; Saturday, 8am-4pm
Recommended dishes: Battered cod with potato salad, from the cafeteria counter on the lefthand side of the deli; truffled salami and Wienerwurstchen (similar to hot dogs), from the pork counter on the near side of the deli; smoked butterfish, from the fish counter on the righthand side of the deli; finally, if you like carp and like to prepare it in your own kitchen, order it from Rogacki – the price is right and the quality excellent.